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The profit of sustainability

Nov 12, 2012

In collaboration with Accenture, the UN Global Compact produces a series of reports designed to help businesses enhance their support to the Sustainable Energy for All initiative.

A series of reports named Sustainable Energy for All: The Business Opportunity by The UN Global Compact and Accenture outline business action across 19 industry sectors and emphasise how businesses can create value by supporting the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which aims to expand energy access worldwide, improve energy efficiency and increase the share of renewables.

The 19 “Industry Opportunity” reports in the work focus on action stories across industry sectors like retail, food and agriculture, automotive; information and communications technology (ICT), mining, utilities, healthcare,financial services and renewable energy and aim to guide and inspire companies across all industries to move in pursuit of sustainable energy. Based on research and interviews with more than 70 companies, the reports recommend several action priorities for industry to advance the goals of Sustainable Energy for All.

Fifty per cent of those actions focus on energy efficiency, 38 on renewable energy use and 12 on access to energy.The five action priorities identified for all sectors were: drive energy efficiency in operations and through energy efficient products and services; use of renewable energy in operations; reuse waste streams; and engage in stakeholder engagement and advocacy.

Highlighting that all industry sectors have a role to play in advancing the sustainable energy agenda, the reports point to the four ways in which businesses can derive value from supporting the initiative: reducing cost, mitigating risks, generating new revenues and enhancing brand reputation. For example, the reports estimate that the mining industry could reduce costs by up to 10 to 15 per cent; retail by up to 20 per cent; utilities by up to 25 per cent;and public building portfolios by up to 35 per cent.

They also identify two major challenges: the lack of global policy and regulatory solutions, and the subsequent need for sectors to introduce industry-wide standards that provide governments with a framework to support.They identify the high level of risk associated with the recommended actions and suggest that new financing mechanisms and instruments will be required by both the public and private sectors.

“The business community is well-positioned to lead the effort to advance the goals of Sustainable Energy for All,and to generate new revenue streams and reduce costs as they do so,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “While government incentives are critical, sector-wide initiatives will be key to making progress without compromising healthy competition. The business case for action is compelling.”

“It is clear that real progress in delivering sustainable energy to the 1.3 billion people who don’t have it today will be achieved within industry sectors,” said Dave Abood, managing director, Sustainability Services North America at Accenture. “Leading companies will compete and collaborate to drive affordable innovations at scale, but policy and financial innovation will play a part too. These industry reports will help all stakeholders agree on joint steps forward.”

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